Glasgow Must Sees
‘Tell them about some Glasgow must sees,’ said Johanna. ‘It’s time you said something about Scotland’s largest city.’
‘But I’m not sure I really I like the place’, I replied. ‘Never been comfortable there, to be honest.’
‘That’s because you’re an east-coaster and prefer small towns.’
‘Could be. But I reckon Glasgow offers no essential Scottish experiences that you can’t get in Edinburgh. OK, it has has plenty to see, but as for Glasgow must sees, I’m not sure.’
‘Well, you’re making the city sound like an inferior Edinburgh. And that’s wrong. What about Charles Rennie Mackintosh? The Art School?’
‘OK, I agree, the Glasgow School of Art qualifies as a Glasgow must see.’ (Except since the fire on the 23rd May 2014, all interior tours are cancelled for at least 12 months until the restoration is completed.) And I’m not really saying, Glasgow is an inferior Edinburgh. It’s just a lot less picturesque. It hasn’t got those sweeping panoramas, those magnificent first impressions, that sense of theatre… ’
‘That’s enough. You’re beginning to sound like these tourist brochures you used to write.’
‘That’s true. I wish I could have a hot dinner for every time I’ve written about Edinburgh ‘sweeping panoramas and sense of theatre.’
‘Hot dinner? OK, where in Glasgow would you choose for dinner? I mean as a Glasgow must see or must experience.’
‘Hmmm. Cafe Gandolfi, probably. They’re friendly there.’ Or the old-established Ubiquitous Chip. Oh, and Fanny Trollope’s is amazing.And, come to think of it. I was always told to go on about Glasgow’s legendary friendliness, its “genius for instant friendship”. But, personally, I have always found, say, Dundee, just as friendly.They always chat to you in the shops anyway. Berwick-upon-Tweed is really friendly and it isn’t even in Scotland. And, at the other end of Scotland, Orkney folk are friendly. Come to think of it, most places in Scotland are friendly. Except possibly Crieff.’
‘Hmm. Moving on. So you’ve reached two must sees for Glasgow. Now what about its culture? Would you add the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum to your list of Glasgow must sees?’
‘Yes, I suppose I would. Love the layout and building and the art. And the free organ recital at lunchtimes. But as a museum experience I wouldn’t say it’s any better than the Royal Museum of Scotland….’
‘I know, I know…..in Edinburgh. Come on, try a bit harder.’
Glasgow and Edinburgh
See map (left) These two cities – highlighted on the map – are so close together you can certainly day-trip one from the other.
Just pop through by train. Read the rest of this page and you’ll soon get the idea of which you city you should stay in and day-visit the other. But, hey, that’s just me. You might love Glasgow and visit Loch Lomond instead of Edinburgh!
‘Well, I like steam trains, so I’d add Glasgow Transport Museum to the list. Sorry, I mean the Riverside Museum of Transport and Travel. Except you’re best to go in school term-time as otherwise it’s full of skirlin bairns. I mean screaming children. Or do I mean weans? It’s ‘weans’ in the west…’
‘Still a brilliant venue nonetheless. Amazing Zaha Hadid designed architecture. That’s better. And I like shopping, so…..’
‘OK, then. For some folk, the Glasgow shopping experience should be on the list. Not so much for the Buchanan Galleries or the St Enoch Centre. They’re just like the vast shopping malls elsewhere in the UK. Could be anywhere – just faceless 21st-century retailing. No, I’m thinking, uhmm, Princes Square – decent cup of coffee in there, in my time – or some of these exclusive individual boutique shops in the Merchant City. I used to be forever writing stuff about Glasgow being the second-largest retail centre in the UK, but I’m not even sure that’s true. Big enough, anyway. ‘
‘Yes, agreed. You’d have to put Glasgow shopping as part of the Glasgow must see or must experience. OK, you’ve nominated - not in order - Glasgow School of Art - guided tours available here now you say - (and you could also have put the Mackintosh House in there); then you said Cafe Gandolfi and/or the Ubiquitous Chip, Kelvingrove Museum, The Riverside Museum. What about the Burrell Collection?’
(Above) A peely-wally sunset on the River Clyde. On the left is the main BBC building in Scotland. Behind it is the Glasgow Science Centre. The 127 metre high Glasgow Tower is also conspicuous. The tallest free-standing building in Scotland can revolve 360 degrees, but it doesn't do this trick very often as it has been plagued by operating difficulties. Ho hum. Said to be up and running in 2014. Update: yes, it opened in July 2014, offering fine views from the top, though it won't actually revolve when you're in it. It just moves to keep out of the wind (or something) - but, apparently, it's now got new ball-bearings. Phew.
‘The Burrell Collection, I hear you you say, as we've just been interrupted by a picture caption. Ah, yes, the magpie collection of a Scottish shipping magnate.’
‘Will you stop sounding like a smug brochure?’
‘Sorry. But Burrell was well known for his ability to pick up a bargain. And the kindest thing you can say about the collection is that it’s eclectic.’
‘Well, I still think it should be on a Glasgow must see list. It’s quality.’
‘That all depends on how much time you have.’
‘Aye, that’s a consideration. Knowing your prejudices as an east coast laddie from the country, I suppose you’d recommend potential visitors take a day trip by train from Edinburgh?’
‘Tempted, if I was being totally honest. But even I'd say you’d not have enough time to cover the ground. Mind you, if I really compiled a list of Glasgow must sees, I'd not have their Botanic Gardens on them. ’
'And why would that be?'
'Because they let dogs in. Nice enough plantings and so on, but it's not a proper botanic garden - not like the pristine dog-free Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden. Glasgow's is just a glorified public park.'
‘You really are letting your prejudices surface a bit aren't you? Any more must sees? Personally, I’d put the Tenement House into the list.’
'Yeah. It’s a reminder of the ordinary working folk of Glasgow, I suppose. Same goes for the People’s Palace. Add it to the list. Interesting, come to think of, that the equivalent preserved example of domestic life in Edinburgh is the Georgian House - definitely a bit more upmarket.'
‘Well, that’s Glasgow and Edinburgh for you. Anyway, think back. What else did you used to write about Glasgow?’
‘I always used to say that you had to look up. I mean all that Victorian detailing. A lot of it is going on above ground floor level. And I remember I was always asked to say something about the Glasgow style, though I could never work out what it actually meant. I always reckoned it was just a marketing ploy. I suppose it referred to a lot of themes coming together - Charles Rennie Mackintosh; classy shops; Glasgow’s own cafe society. I never found it. Though you can get a nice scone in John Lewis’s coffee shop. OK, only joking....’
'Did you tell them about Byres Road and Ashton Lane? Remember that pleasant drink we had on the roof of the Ubiquitous Chip (noticeboard - left) in the sunshine?'
'Sure, sure. Look, of course visitors will have a fine time. It’s Scotland’s biggest city after all. It’s bound to have good restaurants. Bottom line though: if I had extra days to allocate on a Scottish vacation, unless I was an inveterate clubber, shopper or diner, I think I’d rather go north and west. Even if it was only to see Loch Lomond on the way. Come to think of, is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park a Glasgow must see?’
'Probably. And I love the way you speak text links.'